Saturday, August 20, 2005

The New York Times Shocks Me Twice

After pondering all day all the ways I could rip The New York Times' anti-academic freedom editorial to shreds, I then read this article on the Discovery Institute that is equally shocking in its reasonableness, at least for the Times.

The article states:
As much philosophical worldview as scientific hypothesis, intelligent design challenges Darwin's theory of natural selection by arguing that some organisms are too complex to be explained by evolution alone, pointing to the possibility of supernatural influences. While mutual acceptance of evolution and the existence of God appeals instinctively to a faithful public, intelligent design is shunned as heresy in mainstream universities and science societies as untestable in laboratories.

I am not sure the writers intended to suggest by the use of the phrase "shunned as heresy" that Darwinism functions as a religion, but it does.

The article debunks some of the popular fodder for ad hominem attacks:
Detractors dismiss Discovery as a fundamentalist front and intelligent design as a clever rhetorical detour around the 1987 Supreme Court ruling banning creationism from curriculums. But the institute's approach is more nuanced, scholarly and politically adept than its Bible-based predecessors in the century-long battle over biology.

I was especially impressed effort to portray the moderation and reasonableness of the DI's policy positions (for the most part), and distinguish them from the more aggressive actions by other groups:
One sign of any political movement's advancement is when adherents begin to act on their own, often without the awareness of the leadership. That, according to institute officials, is what happened in 1999, when a new conservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education shocked the nation - and their potential allies here at the institute - by dropping all references to evolution from the state's science standards.

"When there are all these legitimate scientific controversies, this was silly, outlandish, counterproductive," said John G. West, associate director of the science center, who said he and his colleagues learned of that 1999 move in Kansas from newspaper accounts. "We began to think, 'Look, we're going to be stigmatized with what everyone does if we don't make our position clear.'"

Out of this developed Discovery's "teach the controversy" approach, which endorses evolution as a staple of any biology curriculum - so long as criticism of Darwin is also in the lesson plan. This satisfied Christian conservatives but also appealed to Republican moderates and, under the First Amendment banner, much of the public (71 percent in a Discovery-commissioned Zogby poll in 2001 whose results were mirrored in newspaper polls).

You probably will never see me endorsing any New York Times article, and this one made me groan a few times. But it still really surprised me.

Having said this, I note that the mainstream media loves to spin this whole issue as religious or political. The title of this article makes the Times' political angle clear in this case. I would not mind their pursuing either of these themes in an article if they would just examine both sides of the debate, as I do with the underlying religions/philosophies/wordviews here.

I looked long and hard, but there was no mention of Cornelia's Creed. Only the more reasonable statement: "Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists." The statement is true; the mainstream scientists are so obviously wrong.


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